Monday, December 01, 2003

Some notes:
1:Crooked Timber again.
2: Alan Ryan on Amartya Sen
I read the piece on Sen when it came out and in my ignorance was struck first by the following reference, which I've had to type in from the copy on my desk. It refers to the work of Kenneth Arrow.

In 1950, Arrow... published his 'impossibility theorem'... which showed that (given a few quite irresistible requirements) there is no rule for combining individual preferences into a social choice that does not generate paradoxes. Suppose, for example, that a society wants to decide whether the proceeds of a national lottery should be spent on education, health, the arts, or sports. We are tempted to think that there must be some way of taking each citizen's preferences about the outcome and combining them to produce the choice of society as a whole. Arrow's theorem demonstrated that there is not.

The article then continues on to a discussion of Social Choice Theory as put forth by Sen and others. What bothers me about the discussion is what bothers me about all technocratic systems. Even Sen's structures are too controlling. They're too anti-Freudian: they make me want to rebel in the name of a sort of very human but blind principle. This needs explaining.
A few months ago I put up a post about how the ambiguities of legal debate in the courts and in the classroom create a flexible, dynamic, 'natural' structure that mimics the structure of religious organization without the need for metaphysical gobbledygook, and this because the only rules put down are technical rules for argument and not for result.
The discussion of how laws change parallels how religions adapt, and in both cases, the fact is conservatives can't win. Change -adaptation- happens to religion and to law as it does to language. But structures remain structures.
Here I'm going to jump a bit, make a quick comment, leave off for the night (and get drunk.)
One of the many things that annoy me about young technocrats is that when they move into working class neighborhoods they pay not only little respect but little attention to the people they are displacing. And I mean this not only in terms of their rudeness, but their lack of curiosity. A working class community is a social ecosystem, predicated on systems of mutual support and of coercion. The community is defined by social rules that are considered a priori, even as they were created by the community itself. The 'New People" or 'Liberals' or 'Assholes'- among the various words the community uses to describe the young conquerors- do not understand or appreciate the purpose of these rules. I wrote it almost by accident but I'll repeat it: The community is defined by social rules that are considered a priori, even as they were created by the community itself. My point is this: No technocratic construction can or will replicate the complexity of such self regulating systems. But left-liberals as well as conservative 'economic' liberals are unwilling or unable to criticize the primacy of the individual actor.

"...but the individual, as such, is not the centerpiece of our system of law. The system itself is."
I have to slip that in somewhere
Enough for now.

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